The Eravikulam National Park, abode of the highly endangered , (Nilgiritragus hylocrius), will remain closed to visitors till April 4.
Chief Wildlife Warden V. Gopinathan said the two-month closure was an annual affair during the calving season of the tahrs.
The closure was ordered on the basis of a report submitted by K.V. Subramanian, Field Director (Project Tiger), that the calving season of these mountain goats had begun at the park. Mr. Subramanian told The Hindu that kids were seen from the later part of January. Many of the female tahrs were heavily pregnant.
The mating season of the tahrs is between June and August and the gestation period is nearly six months. Females give birth to a single calf, though occasionally a mother with two kids has been observed. Births peak during February, and the kids are instinctively wary of human presence.
Mr. Subramanian said the newly born calves were very vulnerable to disturbances and diseases. The kids followed their mothers for the first two months and were weaned in six months. He said the calves accompanied their mothers to the Rajamala tourism zone of the 97 sq km park. But the large number of visitors to the tourism zone made the calves vulnerable to contracting diseases.
Mr. Subramanian said the tahr population at the park was stable at around 800. An estimate taken in 2010 showed the population as 776; in 2011 it was 831, and in 2012, 789. The number of kids during the calving season was estimated at 70.
Wild dogs, leopards, and even tigers are the main predators of the Nilgiri Tahr. Disease and accidents also claim some of them.
The adult males are called saddlebacks since they develop a light grey area on their backs. The Nilgiri tahrs are the only species of Caprine ungulates found south of the Himalayas.
The tahr, the State animal of Tamil Nadu, which was driven to the brink of extinction during the second half of the 19th century made a spectacular comeback mainly owing to the early interventions of the Nilgiri Game Association and the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. There are now plans to reintroduce the tahr in its original habitats of Glenmorgan Mountains in the Nilgiris and the Thirukurungudi mountain ranges of the Kalakad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve in Tamil Nadu from where it disappeared years ago.